Archive for August, 2017

Bill Toms And Hard Rain review….August 20, 2017….

BILL TOMS AND HARD RAIN

GOOD FOR MY SOUL

TERRAPLANE RECORDS

I’D BE A RICH MAN TODAY–BACK TO MEMPHIS–NOTHING LIKE MY BABY–DEVIL’S TRAIN–HARD TO SAY GOODBYE–WORKIN–I’M SAD NO MORE–INTO THE STORM–YOUR LOVE IS GOOD FOR MY SOUL–I’M GOING HOME–DESPERATE TIMES

Bill Toms has been on the scene for a good while, fans.  He started out as lead guitarist for Joe Grushecky And The Houserockers, based outta Pittsburgh, back in 1987, and they opened for anybody who was anybody that played SteelTown back in the day.  Heck–their “American Babylon” set from 19995 was produced by Springsteen himself!

Bill’s ninth full-length release finds him working with his band, Hard Rain, and it is entitled “Good For My Soul,” for Terraplane Records.  He’s taken the Stax-Motown-Philly soul that he grew up listening to and turned it into the eleven songs herein that embody the sound and feeling from that era.  Add to that the fact that he mixes it all with a healthy dose of gospel that would make Curtis Mayfield proud.

This set was produced by Rick Witkowski and Will KImbrough, who adds slide, mandolin, and backing vocals throughout the mix.  You can’t deny the spirit that fills these grooves.  Bill has one of those gravelly, “last-stop-before-Joe-Cocker” vocal styles, and he really gets into the groove of the leadoff tale of a lover,, who,  “if I had a penny for all the pain, I’d Be A Rich Man Today.”  He digs deep into an Otis Redding groove for “Goin’ Back To Memphis,” and extols the virtues of his lover on the breezy, summertime soul of “Nothing Like My Baby.”  “Workin” is a shout-out to all his steel mill brothers, “doin’ it every day to try and pay the bills.”

Two of the more “sanctified” cuts served as our favorites.  “I’m Sad No More” is pure, unadulterated, hand-clapping, foot-stompin, AMEN-shoutin’ Sunday morning joy,  while “I’m Going Home” is a slow-blues cut with brush-stroked drums and a moral, as, even tho the subject “feels the noose on my skin,”  he also finds redemption with “peace in the Glory.”

Bill Toms, along with Steve Binsberger, who is on keys throughout, wrote all eleven of the cuts on this set.  Trust us, fans—Bill and the fellows of Hard Rain make this one sho’ nuff  “Good For My Soul,” and everyone else’s, too!   Until next time…..Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

Blues Overdrive review…August 18, 2017….

BLUES OVERDRIVE

OVERDRIVE LIVE!

DEATH ON THE HIGHWAY–THREE TIME LOVER–BALL AND CHAIN–HIGHWATER (FOR CHARLEY PATTON)–EVERYBODY WAS ROCKING–MR. SIXTEEN TONS (BLUES FOR THORUP)–YOU’VE GOT THE POWER TO TURN ME ON–CHERRY–I WAS WRONG

One of Denmark’s best blues outfits are the fellows that comprise Blues Overdrive.  They are noted for their  hi-test live shows, and they give us just that on their latest release, “Overdrive Live.”  This one was recorded live-to-tape on August 8, 2016, at the prestigious Smukfest in Skanderborg, Denmark.

Over the seven originals and two covers, the band flexes its considerable muscle and cover all their influences, from contemporary blues-rock, roots-rock, and even a touch of rockabilly.  Martin Olsen is on vocals, with Andreas Andersen on guitar,  Brother Thomas Birck on bass, and Louisian Boitner on drums.

“Three Time Lover” bristles with Chicago-styled energy, as Andreas’ guitar mixes in some SRV along with some Iceman throughout this one.   “Highwater,” written by Bob Dylan, is done as a tribute to Charley Patton.  The Howlin’ Wolf-ish “Mr. 16 Tons” is done as an homage to Danish icon Peter Thorup, known for his work with Alexis Korner.  The tribute to Thorup continues with a brooding “You Got The Power To Turn Me On.”

We had two favorites, and they both rocked the joint.  “Everybody Was Rocking” owes a lot to the folks down at 706 Union Avenue in Memphis,  with its Sun-splashed, chunka-chunka rockabilly rhythm.  And, the set closes with the mile-a-minute romp of “I Was Wrong,” as our hero gives a no-good lover the heave-ho!

Blues Overdrive continues to set the bar high  for their Danish and European contemporaries.  They are sho’ nuff on their game here, making “Overdrive Live” a raucous, energy-filled listen!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

Johnny Oskam review…August 17, 2017…

JOHNNY OSKAM

IN MY SHADOW

BADLANDS–DEEP IN MY BONES–TURN THE KEY–HOLD YOUR TONGUE–WAITING FOR THE RAIN–DEVIL’S COMIN–DRAG YOU DOWN–I WANT YOU TO STAY–LIMBO LANE

Johnny Oskam’s influences cut a wide swath.  Thru his guitar playing, one is just as likely to hear elements of SRV and Albert King, as well as John Mayer, Hendrix, and Soundgarden.  He’s sho’ nuff one helluva player, but something else that’ll catch you by surprise is the maturity of his songwriting.  You can hear it for yourself on his latest set, and second overall, “In My Shadow,” co-produced by his brother, Michael.

Joining Johnny are Mark Encabo on bass, Katin Burns on drums, with Kyle Schafer and Jonathan Eastly on keys.  One thing we noticed right away over the course of these nine originals is the way this young writer is able to grasp the centuries-old  pull of Man vs. good and evil.  Leading off is a tale that has its origins down at the Crossroads, as he is “goin’ down to the Badlands to make a deal with the Bad Man.”  This one has excellent guitar, as Johnny makes plenty of room for improvisation, not only for himself, but Kyle’s keys work as well.  A few cuts later, he finds that elusive salvation and redemption in the form of the Delta-fied voodoo chile that is “Devil’s Comin, but he ain’t gonna take me, ’cause I know Jesus!”  This one has some fine Doomsday percussion from Katin, along with that snake-like riff that drives the whole thing.  Johnny goes into SRV mode to let us know that, yeah, he’s got some vices and he tries to “walk this road alone,” but,  “still has the blues Deep In My Bones.”

Johnny does have a somewhat lighter side as well.  Two cuts in particular embody this, as “Turn The Key” and “I Want You To Stay” show his respect for contemporaries such as John Mayer.

Our favorite was another one that had some killer percussion and kind of an echo-chamber effect on the slide guitar.  If you stripped “Hold Your Tongue” down to its base elements, it would belong right in the middle of the town square in Clarksdale, as it has the influence of the Delta all over it.

Johnny Oskam originally had a background in piano and choral music, and did not pick up a guitar until the age of 17 at a friend’s party.  He’s got a grown-up bluesman’s soul, tho, and you can hear him maturing right before your very ears  with “In My Shadow!”  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

Altered Five Blues Band review…August 16, 2017…

ALTERED FIVE BLUES BAND

CHARMED AND DANGEROUS

BLIND PIG RECORDS  BPCD 5169

CHARMED AND DANGEROUS–MINT CONDITION–THREE FORKS–ON MY LIST TO QUIT–IF YOUR HEART WENT PUBLIC–GONNA LOSE MY LADY–COOKIN IN YOUR KITCHEN–SHE’S STILL CRAZY–EIGHTH WONDER–THREE ALARM DESIRE–SMALL TALK–ROTTEN–LOOK WHAT YOU MADE ME DO

Blind Pig Records went on hiatus for a while, but they are finally back on the contemporary scene in a big way after having been acquired by independent distributor The Orchard.  Their first release since this acquisition is from the Milwaukee-based quintet, Altered Five Blues Band, and it is a brilliant exercise in straight-ahead as well as soul/blues, entitled “Charmed And Dangerous.”

The five men responsible for this fine music are the two Jeffs–Taylor on vocals, and Schroedl on guitars, Mark Solveson on bass, Raymond Tevich on keys, and drummer/producer Tom Hambridge.  Fans of Stax-era soul and Chicago-styled combo blues are going to love these cuts, dealing with love, lust, desires, and vices, and all the good things that accompany them!

You can’t deny the 99,000 watts of soul power in Jeff Taylor’s voice–plus, it goes down as smooth as some of that single malt Scotch he sings of in “On My List To Quit,” and he has a lot of fun with this material.  Also, the yang to his yin has to be the impeccable guitar stylings of Jeff Schroedl.

Leading off is the swagger-filled ode to every hoodoo man and hoochie coochie man that ever was, as Taylor righteously  boasts himself as “a heat-seeking-missile” that is sho’ nuff “Charmed And Dangerous,” with Schroedl wailin’ in unison.  The roadhouse shuffle-boogie that follows is a song about a lover who makes our hero feel ten years younger, and in “Mint Condition,” while “Cookin In My Kitchen” lets everyone flex their slow-blues chops as Taylor lays down the sly-and-sexy rap about that “wallet like an onion-when you open it, it’ll make you cry!”

We do get a sweet love song, too, as Taylor compares his lover to the “Eighth Wonder of the world,” with backing vocals from Candice Smith.  The set closes with the cool, Delta-inspired swing of “Look What You Made Me Do,” the story of a wishy-washy woman always saying one thing and doing the opposite.

Speaking of the Delta, the most unique cut on the album served as our favorite.  Jeff Schroedl re-works the lyrics to Robert Johnson’s monumental “Crossroads” into “take me to Three Forks, 1938, and, watch out, Mr. Johnson–Lord have mercy on your soul.”  Taylor sings it with fiery ferocity, while Schroedl’s guitar and Steve Cohen’s harp keep the hellhounds at bay!

The Altered Five Blues Band have been doing this for some fifteen years.  They’ve won numerous Wisconsin-area blues awards, and, their “Cryin’ Mercy” album won Best Self-Produced CD  in 2015 at the IBC’s.  “Charmed And Dangerous?”—you bet they are!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

Dry River review…August 13, 2017….

DRY RIVER

PRAYIN’ FOR THE RAIN

LIFT THIS STONE–DRY RIVER BLUES–LOST IN THE WORLD–BREAKFAST–DIVIDED FOR LOVE–HILDEGARD–DEATH COMES KNOCKIN’–FREE MAN–LOVESICK BLUES–LAY DOWN AND DIE–MAKIN’ BISCUITS–SHINE YOUR LIGHT ON ME–TRYIN’–WHO AM I

“Prayin’ For The Rain” is the second album from Dry River, a blues band that calls the area near the banks of the Santa Ana River their home base.  For those not geographically-inclined, that river bed, were it not for reclaimed waste water, would be dry most of the time.

This album was recorded in guitarist and lead vocalist Oliver Althoen’s home studio in Orange, CA.  Joining him on this excursion are Dave Forrest on the harp, Joel Helin on bass, and Ruben Ordiano on drums.  The cool thing about this set is that half of the cuts are acoustic, and the other half electric.   Thus, the fellows draw from their influences which include Robert Johnson and Skip James from the pre-WWII era, and guys like Gary Primich on the contemporary front.  An acoustic number leads off, entitled “Lift This Stone right off of my heart,” and serves as a shout-out to all the BS in the world today, making it so “cold and dark.”  One of the electric cuts finds our hero at odds over the loss of a lover, and feels “Lost In The World, like a pilgrim in an unholy land.”  But, love comes in strange places—like, over “Breakfast, with a woman two-thirds my age, with eyes like thunder and a smile like the falling rain!”

The band’s Skip James/Son House influence can be heard in their songs dealing with the blues’ darkest side.  “Death Comes Knockin” is a fine example, as a condemned man vows one day to “find my rest,” as Dave blows mournfully in the background.

We had two favorites.  Paula Gabriel adds backing vocals to “Free Man,” an acoustic tune dealing with looking for that special love, comparing it to a “cage that can hold me.”  And, the set closes on a positively-philosophical note with “Who Am I?”  Herein, Oliver ponders virtually all of life’s questions and quandaries,  realizing that “you can know the whole world just by looking inside yourself.”

With their use of traditional blues instrumentation and formats, Dry River has crafted a set of honest, powerful music that is literally the last shade of blues before they turn black.  “Prayin’ For The Rain” brings together the band’s themes of death, desperation, and redemption!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

Lew Jetton And 61 South review…August 12, 2017….

LEW JETTON AND 61 SOUTH

PALESTINE BLUES

COFFEE STREET RECORDS

WILL I GO TO HELL–OH MY MY–FOR THE PAIN–MEXICO–SOLD US OUT–DRINKING AGAIN–DON’T NEED NO DEVIL–CHRIST HAVE MERCY–DRAMA–BOUT TIME

Lew Jetton has been a friend of ours pretty much as long as we’ve been doing this—we go waaaay back to the mid-Nineties, when we were known as the Music City Blues Society.  Lew’s music has always been blues that shoot straight from the hip, with no frills.  But, on his latest set for Coffee Street Records, “Palestine Blues,” Lew goes to places other bluesmen might never set foot into.  The music on this set deals with a roughly ten-year period in Lew’s life that most people would bury deep inside their psyche’ and leave it there, as Lew battled drugs, alcohol, depression, and joblessness during this time.  But, Lew turned the ten originals on this album into a memoir of that dark time, using the music herein to show how a person can overcome even the darkest days and find redemption.

Arrangements are relatively sparse, as it was Lew’s intention that the words and music carry the weight of the message, but we do have Lew on guitars and vocals, Erik Eicholtz on drums, Otis Walker on bass, and Colonel J. D. Wilkes on the harp.  The whole thing starts  down at the Crossroads, as Lew asks Jesus, “Will I Go To Hell if I’m not just like you,?” with the Colonel blowin’ like that hell-hound in the background.  Corporate outsourcing leaves many folks living on the government’s dime, and those displaced and jobless as a result are that way “since my job went to Mexico.”  Further reasons why a “country built by the workin’ man” is just a memory is due to the fact that politicians and Big Business has sho’ nuff “Sold Us Out.”

We had two favorites.  Set over a booming, Doomsday riff, sometimes you just gotta get on your knees and pray “Christ Have Mercy, for what I did and did not do.”  And, the set closes with an uptempo shuffle, as Lew realizes it’s “Bout Time to put the bottle down and pick myself up,” leaving a positive message for us all.

Lew Jetton “don’t need no devil to take me down to Hell”—he owns up to the fact that he’s “done it to myself.”  Just as Palestine, the community where Lew lives, was also a Biblical site of great conflict, the music laid down in “Palestine Blues” is a testimony to what Lew has been through to turn his life around and come out on the other side.  It’s not an easy pill to swallow, but it is music that may help others dealing with the same issues, and we owe him a debt of gratitude for sharing it with us.  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.

 

Andrew Chapman review….August 10, 2017….

ANDREW CHAPMAN A/K/A JOJO

WELL, IT’S ABOUT TIME (1994-2016)

SELECT-O-HITS  UR-0407

THAT’S THE KIND OF DAY I HAD TODAY–FACE OF LOVE–HARLEY HOTSTUFF–STILL GOT THE MESSAGE–YOU’VE GOT A LOVER–THE FIT AND THE FEEL–SHE DON’T MESS WITH MY BUZZ–WILL YOU RECOGNIZE ME–BAG OF BONES–PLANE RIDE FROM PARIS–THAT TAKES SOME BALLS–TALK TO ME–BUTTERFLY

Andrew Chapman and Terry Wilson have been playing together since the Seventies, when they formed a band called The Bloontz All Stars, which also featured Tony Braunagel on drums.  A great man once said, “ain’t it funny how time slips away,” as the three are once again reunited on Andrew’s latest album, “Well, It’s About Time.”

Now, Andrew never just disappeared–he just got disgusted with the fickle-ness of the music bidness, and he always kept in touch with his music-loving friends, many of whom are on board herein.  This set is one cool conglomeration of blues, swamp grooves, and even some pop-flavored gems.  Leading off is a story we can all relate to.  “That’s The Kind Of Day I Had Today” is the woebegone tale of a man who shoulda went left instead of right, complete with “two flat tires,” and “every move I made turns into a fight!”  It’s set over a groove that is as greasy and Big Easy as it gets!  The many facets of being in love is the stone rocker, “The Face Of Love,” which, as we all know, “can drive a man insane!  And, one sure way is when “the phone don’t ring at all,” but “I Still Got The Message” that this affair is over.

Andrew latches on to a good gal with the swamp-funk of “She Don’t Mess With My Buzz,” and that groove continues, even tho the girl is long-gone, leaving our hero feelin’ like a “Bag Of Bones!”   These two served as our favorites.

It’s good to see a talented artist such as Andrew Chapman back on the scene with some fresh, exciting material.  One could even go so far as to say, “Well, It’s About Time!”  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.